As I browsed my completely and unarguably definitive ranking of Beatles songs, I have to say I did a double-take when I saw “Don’t Let Me Down” positioned at #125. Like, what’s there not to love? John and Paul give it their all vocally, with some great late-period harmonies; Ringo is practically attacking the drums; and George’s sultry guitar intro sets the stage perfectly for this carnal bluesy ballad. Top that all off with the smooth keyboard stylings of Billy Preston, and it seems like a ridiculously low placement.
Alas, when I listened back I realized the part that throws it off for me. It’s the verse where John sings, “And from the first time that she really done me…” Paul’s harmonies go on hiatus while John gets way too close to the mic, distorting his vocals. Maybe it’s more the fault of the recording engineers than anyone else, but this portion is a definite weak spot, and once you get to a certain point in ranking Beatles songs, even a minor flaw can be the difference between 50 slots.
Other than that verse? Top-notch all the way. The interplay between John and Paul is perfectly balanced, and that moment where they kick in with their powerful first shout of the title is undeniable. It’s a passionate performance all around. And did I mention how much I love Billy Preston’s keyboard playing? Because he is totally the MVP of this song, even becoming the only person ever co-credited with the Beatles.